Austria bars Turkish minister from attending rally marking coup anniversary

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The Austrian government has refused to give Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekçi permission to visit the country to attend an event marking the first anniversary of a failed coup attempt in Turkey last July.

A spokesman for Austria’s foreign ministry said on Monday that the event posed a “danger for public order and security in Austria.”

“I can confirm that [Austrian] Foreign Minister [Sebastian] Kurz has in fact forbidden the Turkish economy minister from entering the country,” the spokesman said.

In the meantime, Zeybekçi in a statement on Monday denied having made a request to visit Austria to attend an event.

“We did not make any demand to Austria to attend an event. We will not ask anyone’s permission to meet with our citizens,” he said.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ambassador Hüseyin Müftüoğlu also made a statement on Monday concerning Austria’s refusal to allow Zeybekçi to attend an event in the country and said Austria was not sincere about defending democratic values.

“The denial of our economy minister’s visit to attend an event commemorating the slain and veteran citizens who defended democracy against the treacherous coup attempt indicates that Austria is not sincere about defending democratic values,” the spokesperson said.

Austria is one of the countries that has called for the suspension of European Union accession talks with Turkey due to the large-scale crackdown the Turkish government launched immediately after the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The Dutch foreign ministry made a similar move on Friday concerning a visit planned by Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Tuğrul Türkeş to attend a similar event, saying he was not welcome in the Netherlands.

“The coup attempt was an unjustified attack on the Turkish state, but given the current circumstances in the bilateral relations between the two countries, we would not welcome the arrival of Deputy Prime Minister Tuğrul Türkeş or another minister,” the Dutch Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was also barred from speaking to Turkish expatriates in Germany during his visit for the G20 summit, criticized the decision, saying Germany was committing suicide.

Turkish government has accused the faith-based Gülen movement of orchestrating the coup attempt, a claim strongly denied by the movement and Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement.

President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” —initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting participants of the Gülen movement in jails.

According to a recent statement by Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ at least 50,504 people have been arrested and 168,801, including soldiers, teachers and civil servants have been the subject of legal proceedings since the controversial coup attempt.

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